One of the articles in the latest edition of Time Magazine (I am not a regular reader, but so what else does one read on the plane?) is devoted to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Indeed, in this globalized world – with all its crises and more and more people getting involved in them – it would seem that it has become a societal problem in the US.
Apart from the usual talk about the problems and horror which soldiers and development workers have witnessed in a war zone, the article also notes that a large part of PTSD is not related to the difficulties of dealing with bad memories but – quite simply – with the fact that, once you get out of the zone, you no longer have a feeling that one is part of a grander design, that it’s like you’re not trying to make this world a better place any more.
The few people who asked me about how I’ve dealt with bad memories (from Afghanistan, or from my work in Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami) should not bother. I would say that we all see very bad stuff all of the time really (the media around us offer no shelter from horror) but that seeing one of our relatives or friends suffer from an incurable disease (like terminal cancer), or that losing a kid in an accident (or worse), brings much more mental and psychological trauma than the scenes of carnage and disaster (especially because, both in virtual or real reality, the repetition of such scenes numbs you anyway).
I think PTSD is more like a personal crisis of sense-making. In my view (but, of course, I can only talk from my experience only) it has a lot to do with the fact that, while one was trying to do good in some incredibly remote place (but often for very selfish reasons: money, a sense of adventure, ego,…), one neglected friends and family, which makes it difficult to re-connect and find the kind of joy which we should all be striving for in our life, and that is to be a meaningful person for our kids, our parents, our larger families and our friends and relatives. It may sound strange, but it took me a long time to accept that I would not be able to change the world and, more importantly, that I should simply try to do a better job when it comes to taking care of those are close to me. I am still not there actually, but I am trying.
I am getting married. I am so happy life is giving me a second chance to do better.